Late last month, the hibernating UAB football program received a commitment from former LSU defensive lineman Maquedius Bain. Less than a week later, Bill Clark‘s crew has gotten a commitment from yet another former Power Five player.
On his Instagram account Wednesday afternoon, Greg Bryant surprised and/or stunned some recruiting observers by announcing that he will continue his collegiate playing career with the Blazers. Bryant, who spent the 2015 season at a Miami junior college, appears to be one of those surprised and/or stunned at his landing in Birmingham.
“Never in my life would I be thinking I would go here,” the former Notre Dame running back wrote on the social media site. “But, the next move has to be the best move. I’m officially committed to the University of Alabama Birmingham! Strictly a [business] decision. Minor set back for a major comeback. Round 2 #BLAZERS.”
In early August of this year, and after he was suspended for the first four games of the upcoming season, it was confirmed that Bryant had been declared academically ineligible and wouldn’t play at all in 2015 for the Irish. In late August, and after he had moved on to ASA Miami, Bryant announced that he had reopened his recruitment.
It’ll be a couple of years, though, before Bryant or Bain or any other current or future Blazer sees the field. The football program was disbanded last December before being reinstated this past June, and isn’t scheduled to resume play until 2017. It’s thought that Bryant will have just one season of eligibility remaining when the program returns to the field, although all parties involved, including the NCAA, are still attempting to sort through the eligibility situations given the unique circumstances involved.
Last season as a redshirt freshman, Bryant’s 289 yards rushing were good for second on the team. Bryant was a five-star member of the Irish’s 2013 recruiting class and was rated as the No. 3 back in the country.
Bill Clark will not coach a game for UAB this fall, but that hasn’t stopped him from being the first coach to earn an extension for the promise of what’s to come.
UAB announced a five-year extension for its sidelined head coach Tuesday, which it says reaffirms its pledge to bring back football in 2017.
“The university looks forward to the next phase of UAB Football. We will continue raising philanthropic support needed for facilities and will move forward with our plan to play a complete FBS schedule as a full member of Conference USA in 2017,” AD Mark Ingram said in a statement. “I am as happy as our fans, alumni, donors and community that Bill Clark will continue to be our coach. This is another day of celebration for UAB, with many more to come.”
Clark led UAB to a 6-6 mark a year ago in his first season at the school, before the program was cancelled in December and then resurrected in June. The program will sit out the 2015 and 2016 seasons before rejoining Conference USA in 2017.
“My family and I want to thank UAB, Mark Ingram, Dr. Ray Watts and the Board of Trustees for their commitment to me as UAB’s head football coach. We are doing this and doing it right – today’s announcement sends that message loud and clear,” added Clark. “To all UAB supporters and family, thank you. I appreciate each and every one of you, what you’ve done, and continue to do, to support our program and I am proud to be your coach” Clark continued. “We need you now more than ever to help write the next chapter of UAB football. For my part, I am matching my previous gift and paying it immediately.”
For at least the third time since it was announced the football program had risen from the ashes, another former UAB player is making his way back home.
On Twitter Friday night, Lee Dufour announced that he will be returning to UAB to continue his collegiate playing career. After it was announced back in December that the school had decided to disband the sport, Dufour was one of myriad Blazer football players who decided to take his talents to a university that, you know, had a president who actually valued football as part of the college experience, transferring to South Alabama of the Sun Belt Conference.
In a subsequent interview with al.com, the offensive lineman explained that he and kicker Nick Vogel, who is one of the trio of former Blazers who have returned to the program, had made a pact based on the possibility of the sport being restarted.
“We made an agreement that if there was any way possible we could come back, that’s what we wanted to do,” Dufour said. “We were roommates during the season and we fell in love with the place.
“I liked being back in Mobile and at South Alabama, but I decided I wanted to be away from home and do my own thing. Once I found out UAB was bringing the program back, I pursued it.”
Dufour played in three games for the Blazers last season, starting the last two at center. As UAB is set to return to the field for the 2017 season, Dufour will have two years of eligibility remaining beginning then.
As UAB works hard to bring back to life the football program it hastily killed off last November, the university is requesting those who committed to donate funds to get those checks in the mail as soon as possible. A letter to UAB alumni and more requested for payments to be made between September 1 and 7 so that the university can put together a budget for the coming year.
The letter in full — signed by embattled UAB president Ray Watts, Athletics Director Mark Ingram and UAB Athletics Campaign Committee chair Hatton Smith — was shared by Kevin Scarbinsky of Al.com and can be read here. One portion of the letter details the need for receiving donations ahead of a normal schedule.
We now must get pledge payments in hand. We are already working with many of our donors and supporters so we can cover the expenses associated with the restoration of the three sports on schedule. As indicated at the news conference in June, the necessary funding for these programs is critical to support multi-year commitments to our student athletes and coaches. We’d like to get ahead of the curve and stay there. Specifically, we request that donors make initial payments on their pledges by September 1, 2015. In addition, we will be seeking advance pledge payments on January 15, 2016, and July 1, 2016, for those who are able to help us stay ahead of the curve.
As you might imagine, the reaction from some in the UAB community to this has been a bit mixed. On one side you will have the understanding and devoted fans that will bend over backward to help the university provide a stable budget for the rebirth of UAB football (and rifle and bowling). On the other you have those already speculating this could give UAB an excuse if the financial situation is not improved to bring football back.
UAB is planning to return to the football field in 2017.
Late this past week it was reported that kicker Nick Vogel was transferring from Southern Miss back to UAB, the first former Blazer to return to the previously-disbanded football program since the university announced it would resume the sport in 2017. This weekend, Vogel got a little company at what has the makings of a burgeoning reunion.
Saturday, al.com reported that the UAB football team will be bringing back Bryant Novick and adding him to its roster. Novick had considered transferring to Hawaii, James Madison or Tennessee-Chattanooga before opting to remain with the Blazers, telling the website that “staying here was the right thing to do.”
Novick was a redshirt freshman for the Blazers in 2014. How he, along with Vogel and any others that return, will be classified is still something that needs to be decided by the NCAA.
Regardless of class standing, Novick sees it as a positive that the program will take a couple of seasons to get back on its feet as it rebuilds.
“I think [it’s] a good thing,” the lineman said of a 2017 return. “That way we aren’t rushed into a season right away, and it allows for coach [Bill] Clark and UAB to do it the right way.”
The Hoover, Ala., native took a redshirt as a true freshman, then saw action in three games in 2014.
In addition to Novick and Vogel, it was also reported earlier this month that Tyler Jones, a transfer from Memphis, had joined the UAB team as well.